We’ve arrived at the WBBL06 finals after a season like no other and expert Mary Konstantopoulos is here to deliver her preview.
Each of the eight teams competing in WBBL06 deserve our thanks and admiration, as do the administrators and support staff that helped this season happen.
Because of the pandemic (and some pesky rain at the start), WBBL06 has been a season like no other. All the teams relocated to Sydney to be based in a ‘hub’ which, for many players, meant time away from family, friends, hobbies and their jobs.
But after a full season condensed into just four weeks, we have our semi-finalists!
Let’s have a look at the strengths of each of the four teams ahead of the first semi-final this Wednesday.
For the first time in the franchise’s history, the Melbourne Stars are playing WBBL Finals.
The Stars qualified in style, finishing on top of the ladder, three points clear of the next placed, Brisbane Heat.
What changed for the Stars in 2020?
Australian Women’s Cricket team captain Meg Lanning returned and scored 458 runs at an average of 45.80, placing her second on the runs leader board behind Beth Mooney. Alongside her, Mignon du Preez and Elyse Villani also feature in the top ten run scorers, demonstrating the Stars batting depth. But the batters aren’t the only ones dominating. Natalie Sciver is the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 18 wickets at an economy rate of 6.97.
Lanning joins a host of other senior players including Villani, Sciver and Katherine Brunt who have supported the younger talent including Annabel Sutherland, Tess Flintoff and Sophie Day. Importantly, this is a squad that has enjoyed ‘hub life’ and regularly remind each other how lucky they are to be playing cricket.
For new coach Trent Woodhill, his first season at the Stars has been a success. Perhaps the Stars will be the first Victorian team to win the WBBL.
After losing several senior players leading into WBBL06, many questioned whether the Brisbane Heat would be competitive, but with their second-place finish, the Heat have shown they are capable of that elusive three-peat.
What has been so exciting about the Heat is the number of players who have stood up to fill the void left by departing players including Mooney, Sammy-Jo Johnson and Kirby Short.
Grace Harris and new recruit Dr Georgia Redmayne have been a formidable opening partnership, between them scoring 572 runs. But despite this, none of the Heat’s batters feature in the top ten run scorers, demonstrating that their totals have truly been a team effort.
Harris and Redmayne have also contributed in other ways. Harris has taken 13 wickets at an economy rate of 5.61 and Redmayne leads the competition for dismissals at 16.
Then there is the combined effort of Jess Jonassen and Amelia Kerr with ball in hand. These women took 16 wickets each this summer, playing them equal third on the leaderboard for wickets taken.
Jonassen should be proud of how her leadership skills have developed this summer. Sometimes, despite seniority, players struggle with the additional captaincy responsibility, but Jonassen has led and continued to contribute with both bat and ball.
After missing the WBBL finals last year, the Thunder recruited exceptionally well over the off-season and it’s paid off with a third-placed finish.
The Thunder’s real star has been new recruit Heather Knight. Knight has scored 403 runs at an average of 40.03. But she’s been supported with contributions from new opener Rachel Trenaman who scored 224 runs, Rachael Haynes with 268 runs and Tahlia Wilson and Phoebe Litchfield who each scored 166 runs.
But the Thunder have also had plenty of bowling options. Johnson has had a couple of exciting batting cameos and has taken 18 wickets at an economy rate of 7.22. Sam Bates took 14 wickets and Shabnim Ismail is one of the fastest bowlers in the women’s game and wreaked havoc, taking 12 wickets.
What is most exciting is young talent like Hannah Darlington who has taken 15 wickets. Darlington is touted as a future club captain and at just 18 years old, has a bright future ahead.
Haynes should also be commended for a much stronger season this year. Haynes has settled into her leadership role and had an impressive season in the field and with the bat.
After many predicted the Scorchers would win the competition this year, the Scorchers have just scraped into the finals in fourth spot ahead of the Sydney Sixers on net run rate.
Whilst the Scorchers recruited the two top run scorers in WBBL05 in Mooney and Sophie Devine, the challenge this season has been batting depth. Mooney and Devine cannot carry the Scorchers batting line up on their own. While Mooney has scored the most runs this season with 524, and Devine not far behind her on 448, there has been very little contribution from the rest of the team. The next highest run scorer is Chloe Piparo who has scored 117 runs followed by Nicole Bolton with 102 runs.
For the Scorchers’ opposition on Wednesday night, the key is clear. Break the formidable opening partnership of Devine and Mooney and you are well on your way to success.
Despite some struggles with the bat, the Scorchers have had some success with ball in hand, especially in the likes of Tanaele Peschel who has had a break-out season. After only recently returning from a serious foot injury, Peschel has taken 13 wickets at an economy rate of 5.95. The only Scorcher to have taken more wickets is Sarah Glenn with 16.
Semi Final 1: Melbourne Stars v Perth Scorchers | Wednesday November 25, 7:10pm AEDT
Semi Final 2: Brisbane Heat v Sydney Thunder | Thursday November 26, 7:10pm AEDT